Coral ardisia is a striking but invasive plant. The Osprey Acres Stormwater Park and Nature Preserve, unfortunately, is home to a thriving population in its shady hammock areas, as seen below.
Native to southeast Asia and introduced to Florida as an ornamental plant in the 1800’s, coral ardisia escaped from cultivation and was so invasive that it was placed on the Florida Noxious Weed List in 1995. Research has shown that, depending on site conditions, 84% to 90% of its seeds are viable and can persist in the seed bank for many months. Below is a photo from the Indian River Lagoon Greenway where coral ardisia, if not removed, likely would have overtaken the adjacent native beautyberry (Callicapra americana).
Its showy red fruits seeds can persist on the plant for months. Birds spread the seeds. Common names for this plant reference its persistent fruits and include coralberry, coral bush, spiceberry, Australian holly, hen’s eyes, Christmas berry, and scratchthroat. The fruits are thought to be poisonous to livestock, some wildlife, and humans, who may experience a scratchy throat when consuming these red fruits.
Its opposite leaves are glossy, dark green, can be up to 8″ long, and have scalloped (crenate) leaf edges (margins). The species name of this plant, crenata, references this characteristic.
Coral ardisia grows to be from 3 – 6′ tall and can form dense monocultures.
Coral ardisia thrives in shady moist hammocks and takes advantage of disturbance. Remove it whenever you can.